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Trott column: H5N1 bird flu confirmed in Minnesota flocks

H5N1 poses low risk to the public, and there is no food safety concern for consumers

The Minnesota Board of Animal health reports that H5N1 avian flu has been confirmed in poultry flocks in Meeker and Mower counties. Samples collected from both flocks were tested on March 25 at either the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory or the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and were confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

Poultry is safe to eat, and proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F is always advised. The Centers for Disease Control also recently announced H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is a low risk to the public. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States.

The infected flocks include:

  • A Meeker County commercial turkey flock (289,000 14-week-old toms) reported with mortality and signs of depression. Samples were collected and tested positive.
  • A Mower County backyard mixed flock of chickens, ducks and geese (17 birds) reported increased mortality. Board staff collected samples and submitted them for testing.

“These are the first cases of HPAI in the state of Minnesota since 2015,” said Dr. Dale Lauer, Poultry Program director for the board. “Poultry producers and backyard flock owners need to be on alert and contact their veterinarian immediately if they see any changes in their flocks. Everyone in poultry facilities needs to follow the site’s biosecurity protocols every time to prevent the spread of disease.”
The sites are quarantined, and flocks are being euthanized on the premises. Poultry are euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease; poultry from the infected flock will not enter the food system.

Biosecurity is paramount to stopping the spread of this and other viruses and disease. Flock owners large and small, from commercial operations to backyard flocks, should review their biosecurity measures to maintain the health of their birds. The Board established a 10-kilometer control area around the HPAI infected flock and animal health officials are identifying all premises with commercial or backyard poultry in this area. Those identified flocks will be quarantined and go through routine disease surveillance to make sure the virus isn’t spreading.

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“The rapid response and testing surrounding the infected sites is the result of years of preparation with our local, state, federal and industry partners,” said State Veterinarian Beth Thompson.

If you have a flock exhibiting any clinical signs of influenza, such as a drop in water consumption or increased mortality, or you believe they might have been exposed to birds with the disease, immediately call your veterinarian. If you are a veterinarian and receive reports of clinical signs of avian influenza, call the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory at 320-231-5170.

If it is after hours or on the weekend, call the Minnesota Duty Officer at 1-800-422-0798.

Subsequent detections of HPAI in Minnesota will be posted on the Board’s website, www.mn.gov/bah/hpai . The Board is the official source of information for Minnesota’s response to HPAI.

Robin Trott is a horticulture educator with University of Minnesota Extension. Contact her at 320-762-3890, or at trot0053@umn.edu.

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